Economists working with female entrepreneurs at the grassroots and village levels in rural areas of the Central Province have noted that women are being systematically excluded from national programmes.

According to senior lecturer at the Department of Economics and Statistics of the University of Peradeniya, Shobana Rajendran, apart from experiencing poverty and being marginalized in many ways, women entrepreneurs were also excluded from national programmes pertaining to training and education and faced issues in relation to transportation, challenges regarding working capital and marketing.

The said entrepreneurs mostly produce practical items such as baskets and tablemats from wastepaper, batik items and paper quilling (jewellery and key tags).

Rajendran said other challenges and issues faced by women include the lack of knowledge of markets, the lack of knowledge about the demand for their production and members of their families not being supportive of their entrepreneurial efforts.

She pointed out that the women were being taught how to use social media applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook in order promote their businesses.

“These women tend to work in gardens belonging to others and in shops and use the money they earned (Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000) to start their businesses. Some don’t have qualifications while others have some employment-related training. They initially had only negative views about the lack of money and markets. We are changing their minds. Now they are reaching global markets,” Rajendran said. RLJ